Fedora 16 (Verne) Released

Fedora 16 (Verne) Released

Summary: Fedora 16, codenamed "Verne", is due to be released today. Fedora has decome the "poster child" for the Gnome 3 desktop, since being the first of the major distributions to use it (in their Fedora 15 release).


Fedora 16, codenamed "Verne", is due to be released today. Fedora has decome the "poster child" for the Gnome 3 desktop, since being the first of the major distributions to use it (in their Fedora 15 release). So there are a lot of high hopes associated with this release, people are really anxious to see if the Fedora/Gnome 3 desktop is improving as it matures. At first glance, it doesn't disappoint:

Fedora 16

The wallpaper is apparently chosen to go with the name (Verne) theme. I shudder to think what the next release will look like (Fedora 17 has been named "Beefy Miracle"). In any case, this is exactly the desktop people have come to expect from Gnome 3 - a single panel at the top, with a clock in the middle, some icons and controls on the right side and Activities (menu/launcher) on the left side. The Activities menu/launcher can be accessed in three ways (that I know of): click "Activities" on the panel, or move the mouse all the way into the top right corner of the screen, or press the "Windows" key (or whatever the politically correct name for that key is now). The resulting Activities display looks like this:

Fedora 16

There are several interesting areas on this screen. First, on the left side, is the "Favorites" panel. This comes pre-configured as shown, with a web browser, mail/news client, music player, photo manager and file manager. Users can add whatever they want to this by right-clicking on the icons and choosing "Add to favorites". At the upper left of the screen is the "Windows / Applications" selection. Selecting "Applications" gives you the icon/menu layout shown here, while selecting "Windows" gives you a window and desktop manager view. The center of the screen shows icons for the available applications and utilities; the right side of the screen contains a menu-list of groupings of icons, quite similar to the Gnome 2 menu hierarchy. The upper right of the screen is the search/launch area, where you can type search terms or fragments, and corresponding icons will be show in the center. I would like to emphasize for those who have not already discovered it, that you don't need to move the mouse to the search area and click to enter your search criteria; whatever you type on this screen goes to that area, so in practical use all you have to do is hit the "Windows" key and then start typing.

One other thing that I noticed while writing this. Well, re-noticed actually, since I had seen it before but then forgot about it. Look carefully at the bottom right corner of the screen - see that tiny icon down there? When you plug in removable media (i.e. a USB flash drive, CD/DVD drive, SD memory card, etc.), this icon appears. I find this an interesting alternative to actually putting a normal icon on the desktop (as was done with Gnome 2, but would of course be "against the rules" in Gnome 3), or having the "Removable Media" icon in the bottom panel, as is done with KDE. When you first plug in a removable device, a larger box pops up at the bottom of the screen, offering you the chance to open the file manager on the new device, or to eject the media. That large box goes away once you select one of the options, or activate something else, and the tiny icon appears at the bottom right corner. Click on that icon, and you get the same two choices - file manager or eject - in a smaller window. I think that is a clean, convenient and useful design.

Fedora 16

So, what does Fedora 16 contain? Well, Linux kernel 3.1.0 for starters (apparently they finally worked out their naming problems with kernel version 3.x). Firefox 7.0.1, which is still the "latest version" for a few more hours... Evolution for email, Rhythmbox for music, and Shotwell for photo management. There is no Office suite included in the base distribution, but LibreOffice, OpenOffice, KOffice or whatever can easily be installed from using the package manager. Also included is the Totem Movie Player, Cheese for webcam photo and video recording, and Empathy for instant messaging and VoIP.

But... well.... it looks like it should be another good Fedora release. Unfortunately, I won't be using it much, if it all. For a variety of reasons, the base distribution doesn't work on a lot of my systems. First, most importantly and most irritatingly, it STILL doesn't include a driver for the Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter. I just don't understand this. I know, this driver was left out of Fedora 15 because it was still in "staging". But it's not any more, it should be a standard part of the Linux kernel 3.x distribution, and EVERY other Linux distribution that I have tried with a 3.x kernel included it. The stock answer with Fedora 15 was that you could load the "broadcom-wl" driver from the RPM Fusion repository, but I can think of several objections to that - not the least of them being that average users don't want, need or understand that process. This is one of the things that gives rise to the stupid rants about "the nightmare of Linux device drivers". From what I can tell, the new answer for Fedora 16 is that you can get either "broadcom-wl" or "brcmsmac" from RPM Fusion, and my response is the same. Come on, seriously, this is a very commonly used WiFi adapter, Broadcom has released an open source driver for it, I just don't see why it would not be included. Second, less serious in general but still an obstacle for me, the blasted Symantec ClickPad in my HP Pavilion dm1-3105ez doesn't work properly - it's the usual mess, right-click doesn't work at all and click-drag is so erratic that it is unusable.

I assume that these problems are specific to a relatively small number of systems and devices. Most people will be able to download and install Fedora 16, and they will be up and running in no time at all. So if you are interested, give it a try.


Update 18/11/2011 - The Broadcom brcmsmac driver has been added to the Linux kernel by the latest Fedora updates, so netbooks/notebooks with newer Broadcom WiFi adapters, such as the 4313 I mention above, are now fully supported by Fedora 16. This is very good news!


Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • Jamie, I've been running this for a couple of weeks now (the 64-bit beta), and intend to re-install tonight to use the 32-bit version (until Mint 12 RC is released). I will be posting a long review on Friday.
    Overall, it's a very good distribution with a few minor quirks. It won't replace Linux Mint as my #1 desktop recommendation, but it certainly is above average. For those who simply can't deal with GNOME 3, you can install the KDE, LXDE, or Xfce desktops alongside Gnome. One useful tool is the "yum groupinstall" command, which will help when installing desktops or development suites. Use "yum grouplist" to produce the entire listing of groups, both installed and not yet installed.
  • JW, thanks as always for your prompt and thorough reviews! After reading this, I am even more excited to check it out. I am still very much attached to Gnome 2, so I'll probably run it in VirtualBox for now to see how everything interacts. Even for checking "fallback mode" which so far is more like the old Gnome 2 desktop. I haven't thrown Gnome 3 in front of anybody else yet, especially any former Windows users. Based on your review, Gnome 3 is fairly easy to navigate around once the basics are discovered.

    I am also surprised they still don't have the Broadcom saga resolved, but I am sure that eventually it will be, it's just a matter of when. Another thing that bothers me about Fedora is its excessive hardware requirements for the installation, which are higher than the requirements to run the OS after it is installed. So far it looks like the minimum for Fedora 16 is 640 MB of RAM (wow). I've ended up running the installer in VNC mode which seems to get around this, but I just don't see why this much is needed for installation.
  • Update - I have now installed Fedora 16 on my desk/laptop Samsung P580, and I had expected, it installed without a hitch, and everything works just fine - including wired and wireless network, and dual displays. That's pretty impressive, too, it detected and configured both displays, non-mirrored, optimal resolution, all automatically.

    I might have sounded a bit harsh in the original posting, when it didn't work on either of the netbooks I had with me, but I didn't mean to be. Overall Fedora 16 really is a very impressive distribution, and when it works on your particular hardware, it works very well. It sort of reminds me of the time when it was necessary to pay a lot more attention to compatibility and availability of Linux drivers when purchasing a new system. We have gotten a bit spoiled by the generally excellent hardware support of Linux distributions these days.

    @Thomas - good point about the desktops, and about groupinstall, thanks.

    @apexwm - I'm a bit concerned, based on what has happened so far, that they might just not bother with the Broadcom driver, and leave it the way it is - essentially saying "you can get it from RPM Fusion, that's good enough". I hope not.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Warning!

    Don't use preupgrade to do this. It doesn't work with Fedora14, your left with an un-bootable machine.

    Fedoraproject are aware of this, it's in the Common bugs list.

    How difficult would it have been to put a uname -r in the script and warn me!

    Who do they think they are? Microsoft?
  • Finally got FC16 up and running.
    Now having my first experience of Gnome3.

    I absolutely hate it.

    Not being to do something so critical as create desktop folders and short-cuts is making life hell for me.

    Activities that used to take one click now require frigging about trying to get the 'task-bar' I want to appear and stay put long enough for me to find what I want in the mire of enormous icons (mostly for stuff I will never use).

    Get a few apps up and twitch the mouse at the wrong place/time and windows shrink to fit them all on the screen, horrible shadow effects, no minimise/maximise buttons!

    Why are they trying to make a desktop environment look and act like a smartphone?

    I can't believe I'm going to say the following, I never ever thought I would....

    Thank god we conduct our business using MS Windows.

    If we had to inflict Gnome3 on our users productivity would plummet & the whingeing would never cease. Explaining to users how to achieve anything, and telling them they can't do all the simple straightforward things they used to be able to do would become a full time soul-destroying job.
  • @Andy - I'm glad to hear that you got it working, and sorry but not surprised at your reaction to Gnome 3. There are large numbers of experienced users who are saying the same thing, up to and including Linus Torvalds. I have personally seen, and groused about, every single thing you list; my personal favorite is the sudden appearance of shrunken versions of every window you have on the screen, I invariably still jump and think "oops, what happened".

    The only comfort I can offer is to say that after having forced myself to work with Gnome 3 for a while, I slowly started getting used to it, and I found that I could get back to working at about 80% of the efficiency I had with Gnome 2. But then, what kind of statement is that, we made "progress" by losing 20% efficiency?

    The bottom line for me, though, is that the distributions I use primarily now are all KDE based. I only use Gnome when I conciously force myself to do so. That still puts Gnome one step ahead of Unity, because I don't even force myself to use that.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Look forward to upgrading Fedora 15 ->16 (on partners laptop, I use gnome 2 with 10.04)

    But I think many of the gnome 3 useability problems will still be there. Which are:

    1. Accidently triggering 'activities' when wanting to get to the menu, but overshooting

    2. Absolute faff of using the mouse to navigate spaces - having to move to top left, then all the way to right every single time...

    3. No quick/easy/intuitive way to use the mouse to get to favourite folders. 'Places' is SORELY missed.

    3+1. I like the date at the top. I think that should be default.

    3+1+1. Why no shutdown? Seriously, it is easier to access shutdown on my phone!

    For these reasons, I'll carry with gnome 2, and then maybe switch to xfce in the future.

    duncan j murray
  • @duncanjmurray - in the Fedora Gnome 3 system, you have to press Alt to change the menu from Suspend to Shutdown, and then when you click Shutdown you can choose between Reboot and Poweroff. In the openSuSE 12.1 Gnome 3 system Shutdown is on the initial menu along with Suspend.

    I have found that some of the "pain" of excessive mouse movement to get to the launcher/menu can be avoided by using the "Windows" key to activate it. That's only a small improvement, though, it certainly doesn't solve the underlying problem.

    I also like the date at the top, but I wish it were a bit more configurable (content and format)

    Thanks for reading and commenting.
  • I've now jumped ship from Gnome3 to Xfce desktop, this is about 99% the same as Gnome2.

    Something else occurred to me. If I'd never used Linux and loaded up FC16/Gnome3 as my first ever Linux experience I doubt I would have ever looked at Linux again.

    I originally tried Fedora Core 4 when my Windows2000 PC died (BSOD) and the install DVD was knackered, thinking it was worth a look instead of forking out casjh on a new Windows install. My first impression was "oh, its exactly the same as Windows, and it's free, I'll stick with this."

    If Id started with FC16, five minutes later I'd have been on the phone to PC World asking them for a WinXP install disk.
  • @Andy,

    I recently said exactly the same thing about Unity. Is it possible that we are just dinosaurs, and these new desktops really are better/easier/more efficient to use? On one hand, I don't think so - I've looked at and worked with a lot of desktops over the years, and I just can't get my head around this latest crop. On the other hand, I really hope so, because if they are as bad as people like you and I think they are, then Linux desktops are really in for a rough patch. Unless, of course, Windows 8 is even worse than these are, which I think is a very safe bet.

    By the way, the Linux Mint 12 Release Candidate is available on their mirrors now, I've just installed it on a couple of my netbooks, and it is a really interesting and refreshing merge of Gnome 2 appearance and concepts with a Gnome 3 desktop.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • A quick comment on the subject of the Broadcom wireless drivers. You are correct that they aren't enabled in the GA version of the Fedora 16 kernel. Fedora has a policy on not enabling staging drivers, and those drivers left the staging tree during the 3.2 merge window. F16 ships with 3.1, so they are still in staging in that particular kernel release.

    However, there is good news. Now that Linux 3.2-rc1 is out, we have backported the version of the brcm80211 drivers from that to both Fedora 16 and Fedora 15. Those should be included in the next kernel update for both releases.

    I agree it's somewhat unfortunate they weren't in the release kernel. However, staging is explicitly there to get drivers into shape and we hold the line on enabling them so that our users don't get horrible drivers and a nasty experience, and we don't get stuck with a support headache. I think the brcm80211 drivers will be a nice example of that process working overall.

    Thanks for taking the time to review Fedora 16, and we hope Fedora 17 will be even better.

    josh (Fedora kernel team)
  • I am looking forward to using the Mint 12 release candidate (actually, I'm quite excited!). I'm not quite done with my review of Fedora, and I need it still for accessibility testing with a legally blind friend, but I will probably install Mint 12 early next week.
    I definitely can sympathize with people who are upset at the way GNOME 3 changes things. I'm not about to tell others their complaints are invalid, I agree with many of them. But personally, GNOME 3 doesn't irritate me enough to stop using it. I (luckily) missed out on KDE during the 4.0 to 4.2 changeover, and I'm hoping GNOME 3.6 will resemble KDE 4.6 as far as usability. I'm still willing to give GNOME a chance.

    (I know the accessibility tools are in all distros, but Fedora does install Orca by default, and includes the accessibility panel in the top bar, so that's why I'm keeping it for a few more days)
  • Jamie, I should add - I might be in the minority here: I usually install both GNOME and KDE on every Linux distribution I use more than a week, and have gotten used to using KDE, Xfce, and GNOME as my mood strikes - and also LXDE. Comments I make about preferring one over the other should be considered with that in mind. I also had a long history with KDE 2 & 3 (for the first 7 years I was using Linux it was the ONLY desktop I used), but dealt with KDE 4.4 and beyond without losing my mind.
  • @jamie I had a quick look at F16 yesterday - I honestly can't tell the difference between it and F15! As it's the 'serious' computer of my wife, I've decided not to attempt an upgrade! I've just remebered the specific example of workspaces not working in gnome 3 - when working on a lot of photographs, I usually have one workspace devoted only to the file browser, with thumbnails of the images. Then to edit the selected one, I drag to the workspace switched and up to the program - just try doing that in Gnome 3! I imagine it will be slightly better in 3.2 with the workspaces staying out, but on F15 it's : click and drag file to top left, move to selected workspace, move to selected program - WAIT! - then once the program moves to focus, release. (Having just said that, I've just noticed that you can now just pull the file down in the shell view directly onto another workspace). In Unity, I can't figure out how you do it at all! I think G shell would be fine if it just allowed you to drop the file straight onto the application from the shell. Maybe I should suggest it.
    duncan j murray
  • Major embarrassing moment as I've just discovered that I can't drag files around workspaces in Gnome 2!!! I realise what I was doing was right clicking, then 'open in gimp' which would be on another workspace. Can't be bothered to find out what happens in gnome 3, but I think I was having trouble with it... !
    duncan j murray
  • @jwboyer19 - Thanks very much for the information, I will be watching anxiously for the Broadcom drivers to arrive.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I quite like gnome 3... still needs work. But do you guys remember KDE 4.0 or 4.1 ?!? Back then I was saying the same things you guys were saying about gnome 3, but now I am loving the latest KDE. A while back, I was forced to use a friends computer who still had KDE3 installed and I could barely use the friggen thing. I think we just need to be patient with GNOME 3 and as things are moving into widget based stuff and also someone mentioned something like "why do desktop environments need to work like mobile phones"... well i think this is the next step, as multi touch screens are becoming more popular these type of environments become more critical. As with me and KDE4, you probably still think of the good old KDE3 days, but later, within 4-6 months, and you go back to gnome 2... you will probably see that you did not loose 20% productivity but rather gained 100% productivity without realizing it.

    You can't compare the two, and I think fedora did a great job with the new release. Although, I am a KDE user, I am excited to see that gnome is breaking barriers and making something "new". Give it time, I am sure you gnome users will love it. My wife has been using gnome 3 for a while now and she is barely missing windows or gnome 2. For someone of her technical skills, I am surprised how quickly she is getting around the desktop and she is even introducing me to new shortcuts, etc...
  • Update: As mentioned by jwboyer19 above, the Fedora software updates that I picked up last night added the Broadcom brcmsmac driver. This means that netbooks with newer Broadcom WiFi adapters, such as the Samsung I mention in the original post, are now fully supported by Fedora 16. Hooray!